Sesame Street and the Death of Christ
August 1st, 1997
“Mommy, why does Elmo have big, bulgy eyes on top of his head?”
“Hey, Mom. How does the fan talk to me?”
“Mommy. Mommy. Hey, Mommy! When will Easter be here… when they kill Baby Jesus again?”
These are three of the countless thought-provoking questions recently asked by my 5-year-old daughter. The first one was easy to answer. The second was a matter of some concern to me. The third was horrifying. Apparently it was Grace’s understanding that Christ is born every year at Christmas so children can have presents and killed the following Easter so that children can have candy. I did my best to explain.
As for the fan question, apparently she thought her ceiling fan once said “hello” to her. I was greatly relieved to discover they did not converse on a regular basis.
As for Elmo’s eyes, she was satisfied with, “Just because.”
In June I began a new life. No longer a newspaper editor, I am now spending more time with my children than ever before and I am finding the experience joyous, frustrating, wonderful and terrifying. There have been times in the past month I have wanted to gouge out my own eyes in sheer frustration and other times when I thought I was a terrible mother after my patience vanished. After listening to some long-distance bellyaching recently, a friend pointed out, “Maybe there was a good reason our mothers fought for the right to work outside the home.”
In the beginning I had Martha-Stewartesque visions of my days with the children. Dressed in 100% cotton, I would arrange wildflower bouquets in a basket I wove myself while the children played happily in their sandbox. (Screaming, fighting and general sibling rivalry were absent from the picture.) We would save money on dry-cleaning, I reasoned, because I would be able to wash and iron my husband’s shirts. I would be able to plan fabulous, gourmet meals conjured from all the wonderful cookbooks I’ve been given over the years but which have seldom been opened. And I would make the meals with organically grown produce from our own garden! In my spare time I would write the Great American Novel.
I foolishly believed weekends had been so hectic because I worked full time. I expected that life would proceed at a more luxurious pace if I were at home. Time would beget time and I would take on home projects at my leisure. The children wouldn’t argue due to my calming maternal presence and I would live in La-La Land.
Needless to say, my expectations were a little overblown. Even working at home requires some concentration. Clients don’t like it when conversations are interrupted by children screaming. It casts a shadow on your professionalism when you have to yell out the window, “Don’t hit the dog with a baseball bat!” while being asked about a deadline.
The first week they were home Monday through Friday. The second they were back in daycare for several days. I am trying to strike a balance. We need the money, but I am also aware that my children will soon grow past this wonderful, loving stage of life. Grace begins kindergarten this fall and the forces of Beavis & Butthead and the Simpsons will trickle down to her through her friends’ older siblings.
In the meantime I supplement the family income by writing freelance articles, doing technical illustrations, occasionally teaching software classes while clinging to my sanity. Oh yeah – I’m also writing the Great American Novel in my spare time. (I’m on the fifth paragraph).
Theresa O’Neil Knight is a freelance writer and illustrator who lives in Boston, Virginia, with her daughter Grace, son Ian, and husband Jeff. She is expecting her third child in December.